22 Sast, 1816 – Sigil (cont’d)
Realizing that they weren’t too far from both the Mortuary (where Gerald had summoned by a fellow Necromancer) and Ragpicker’s Square (where Puma met the contact for his assassinations), the party emerged from the crypts below the Shattered Temple and headed towards the Ditch – the massive scar running the breadth of Sigil, and the defacto barrier between the Lower Ward and the Hive.
Winding through some of the narrow streets of the Lower Ward toward the sound of rushing water – the portal to Oceanus having been opened to wash out the accumulated filth of the Ditch, as well as providing clean water to the poorest-of-the-poor in Sigil – the group happened upon a group of locals staring intently at what appeared to be a traveling shadow-puppet show. Stopping to see what was interesting about it (and for Misty to pick a few pockets) the group felt a strange pull from the swirling pattern of lights used to cast the shadows. Fortunately (for the party
_) they all shrugged off the effects of the Hypnotic Pattern being cast and watch with amusement as several rough-looking individuals emerged from behind the wagon to take up a ‘collection’ as the show continued.
When one of the men reached Gerald, perched atop one of his zombies, he was surprised to find the diminutive fiend had not fallen under the sway of the magic. Even more surprising, Gerald – and the rest of the party – expressed their appreciation and admiration for a such a clever grift. Receiving a ‘tip’ from the party for their efforts, the troupe quickly packed up and disappeared down a nearby alley before the crowd returned to their senses. The adventurers only managed to catch a partial glimpse of [name], the caster who was apparently running the operation before realizing that they should also be long gone before an angry group of a freshly-robbed citizens started looking for strangers to blame.
Minutes later, the group arrived at one of the few bridges that spanned the Ditch. Crossing over, they looked over the edge to see scaffolding along both sides of the urban canyon, with a number of Sigil’s less-fortunate collecting water (some generous Clerics further up top were offering to purify it for drinking purposes) and even bathing. Suddenly, out of the rushing water, a massive serpent burst forth, chomping down on a few unfortunates at the water’s edge. Apparently, a Brine Sea Serpent had come through the portal and was now in the Ditch.
Puma, Witherton, MIsty, and Earl (Witherton’s Man-at-Arms) attempted to strike at the beast from afar as Silt grabbed the diminutive Gerald and swooped in close to do some damage … right into massive blast of acid from the creature’s maw – even Misty got caught on the edge of the bridge above. The owl-woman and the quazit plunged into the water with the monstrosity and might have washed away had one of the party’s quick-thinking casters not used water-walking, allowing Silt to bob safely just above the water’s surface.
After another round or two of primarily-ranged attacks, and one more devastating – but ultimately non-fatal – blast of acid, the party found themselves trying to recover the body of the beast from the rapids rushing through the ditch in the hopes of scoring a big payday with Scaly Pete. Combining their powers, they managed to shrink the serpent and lifted it out of the Ditch using Tensor’s Floating Disk. Realizing they only had the situation under control temporarily, Silt (still carrying Gerald) flew quickly to the Mortuary and landed in the open space before it. Believing that a living creature would fetch a better price, they Revived it, only to catch one final acid blast (melting a couple of unfortunate bystanders) before being knocked into a coma – not dead, but not conscious.
As the rest of their party contended with the serpent, Puma, Misty and Earl traveled on foot through Ragpicker’s Square. Puma inquired of the locals as to the whereabouts of his contact. One of the rag pickers recognized the description and informed the Gloom Stalker that the body of a person matching such a description had been discovered, fairly mutilated, and delivered to the Mortuary (after being picked clean of anything valuable, of course). Hurrying over to the Mortuary, they reconnected with the rest of the party and ventured inside.
Gerald found Anatoli, the chief Necromancer, and followed him down into an all-to-familiar sub-basement, when he was shown – to his horror – an empty room. Apparently, the Vampire Illitihid had escaped.
Poking around in the chamber, it was discovered that a section of the wall had been deconstructed from the surrounding tunnels by having the mortar scraped out, then carefully re-stacked to look like an intact wall. In the passage outside, a dried puddle of blood revealed a parallel set of tracks that extended a few feet before ending by a bloody rag.
Getting a bad vibe, the party headed back upstairs to ponder the implications of the monster that was likely loose below the streets of Sigil. Contemplating the situation, they decided to look in the examination room where his former contact now lie, and discovered someone else inspecting the remains – a certain scruffy-looking private investigator: Celix Merstorff. Thinking, for some reason, that Celix had no life or need of income beyond the pittance they initially gave him to look into the Darkness (losing both his job and his house in the process), the group finally started putting two and two together and asked (and paid) the investigator to look into the Red Monks of the Hidden Kingdom – believing them to be Yet Another Vecna Cult (YAVC).
Turning to the body on the slab, which appeared to have been savaged down the torso by a wild animal, Gerald cast Speak With Dead. The corpse stated that its guts had been ripped out by an Orc tied to the smugglers who had hijacked a shipment of Elemental Bows. This group, it was believed, had been responsible for hiring Puma to assassinate Judge Tazrin Ulmidath, which he ultimately declined to do, leading to a second assassin being contract to silence him.